Raths re-imagined

Look at Images and conduct a Brainstorming activity based on the following questions. All contributions should be accepted initially, without judgement, and summarised on a whiteboard.

Then watch the videos in Linked Resources and return to the whiteboard to see if some suggestions have been missed or if some answers now seem more likely than others.

  • The rath in Image 1 has multiple banks. Constructing a bank would have required a lot of work. What might be the benefit in having several of these?
  • Images 2 and 3 show an underground passage known as a souterrain. What might this have been used for?
  • Look at Images 4–6. What do these suggest about the types of activity which might have gone on inside a rath?
  • Image 7: how do the houses of early medieval Ireland differ from a modern home?



Anglicised place-names

Most of the names by which places in Ireland are known today were recorded by people who spoke English but knew little or no Irish. Such names are said to have been ‘anglicised’ (adapted to the sounds and spelling of English). Using the place-name databases in Linked Resources, can you work out why the following names have the meanings given? All are anglicised forms of Irish names, containing the words lios, ráth and .

Ardara ‘the height of the ringfort’

Maghera ‘the plain of the ringfort’

Knockaraha ‘the hill of the ringfort’

Gortalassa ‘the field of the enclosure’

Manuslynn ‘the plain of Flann’s enclosure’

Cussee ‘beside the fairy mound’

The place-name anglicised as Knockaraha is in Irish Cnoc an Rátha ‘the hill of the ringfort’. Identify a place-name in your locality which incorporates several different Irish words and design a Picture-board with audio-visual elements illustrating the Irish words in question.


The local landscape

Find a ringfort near you using the Historical Environment Viewer. Visit and take a photo of the fort itself and of a signpost with its name, if there is one. Post the photos on your school Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account, or create a photo-board for the classroom.

Can you identify the bank, enclosure and entrance?

Can you work out what the place-name means?

Where would you build a rath in your village, town or city? Design your rath and explain why you chose the location.